The three-story structure with broken windows, punctured walls and garbage out back had been a crack house. Now it's Mayme Puccio's dream house.

Puccio, a candlemaker and self-styled "street minister," bought the place with the idea of turning it into a nonsecular spiritual retreat."God is good, and so are his people," she said. "And nothing is beyond redemption, not even a crack house."

Puccio hopes residents will use the house as a center for prayer and a place to learn skills like cooking, sewing and writing a resume.

"It's also going to be a place that offers just a lot of quiet time," she said, "so people can regroup and go back to their environment with a little bit of peace in their lives."

At first, residents in the mostly black area looked at Puccio and asked what a suburban white woman was doing in their neighborhood. Now they welcome her.

Puccio, of Tenafly, N.J., has helped deliver food to alcoholics in New York City and food, diapers and baby formula to area churches. Now she's trying to deliver hope to some neighborhood residents.

"I think it's great," said Malik Northern, who lives two doors away. "Someone wants to rebuild the neighborhood and add some spirituality to it."